As I typed the last line of my midterm essay, I couldn’t help but yawn. Finally, I could go to bed. I’d spent the entire week frantically studying for exams and typing up papers, fueled by sugary drinks and snacks that I was sure I couldn’t have survived without. I glanced at the clock. Only 9:30? That didn’t seem possible. It felt more like 2:00 AM to me.
I told myself it was because I’d been working so hard. Midterms had everyone exhausted. It was only natural that I was more tired than normal, too. But, a week later, when nothing had changed, I was forced to re-examine my habits.
As my stress throughout the semester had grown, so had my craving for sugar. I ate ice-cream when I was stressed and Starbursts when I was studying. And, the more sugar I ate…. the more exhausted I was. So, I made the incredibly painful decision to give up sweets for a month. Almost immediately after I decided this, I regretted it. Candy had been my go-to for years, and with cookies and desserts being the only decent tasting food my university’s dining hall seemed capable of producing, I knew I was in for it.
The whole first week without sweets was one of the most frustrating weeks I can remember. I was tired and quite possibly crabbier than I’ve ever been. It was hard not reaching for the jewel-colored jelly beans that were temping me from the candy jar on my desk. Eventually, I moved it in the hall and gave my roommates as much as they wanted. If I was going to get through the month, I was going to have to avoid temptation as much as possible.
By time the second week rolled around, I could feel my energy really starting to come back. I was less inclined to sleep until noon and more inclined to go rock climbing or for a jog. The more sugar went out of my system, the more energized I felt. I’ve had sweets all my life, so I never realized how much energy sugar was actually sapping from my body.
I also noticed it was ten times easier to focus on my classes and assignments than it had been at the peak of my sugar addiction. My attention span seemed longer; I no longer felt like napping during class, and I didn’t feel the need to check social media per every ten minutes of work I got done.
Now, a small part of me was trying to pretend that the reason I was feeling so much better was because I was less stressed, and getting more sleep than I had been in the weeks leading up to my sugar cleanse. But when I woke up one morning to find that my skin was practically glowing, I knew it was time to admit that it was the sugar I was consuming that was really the root of my problems. I’ve always had pretty decent skin, but this was the first time since early high school that I felt more than comfortable going out without makeup and actually confident in my natural appearance.
Through the remaining days of my experiment, my skin stayed clear, my energy up and my ability to focus strong. During the first week of giving up sweets, all I could do was fantasize about the day I could finally eat as many sweets as I wanted again. But when that day finally came… I didn’t. Sure, I had a few pieces of candy and some ice cream, but nowhere near what I thought I’d reaching for. And, interestingly enough, some of the things I’d once reached for as a go-to snack had become just a little bit too sweet for me to eat more than a bite or two.
I found that, once I went a month without, sweets had gone from being my favorite snack to something I could enjoy more as a treat every once in awhile. So, no, this experiment didn’t lead to me disavowing sugar and never enjoying a cupcake again. I still love ice cream and gummy bears. But, whenever I find myself ready to demolish and entire bag of jelly beans, I can remind myself of my sugar cleanse and opt for a handful instead.